Bullying. Sadly, it’s a pandemic that is not just restricted to the school grounds of our younger and geekier selves, but something which tends to follow people around regardless of age and even privacy. Cyberbullying has become more widespread than traditional bullying and is often known to be equally traumatic for its victims. A trend which tech companies are trying to increasingly address.
Instagram has new features (via The Verge) on its way that it’s hoping will address cyberbullying by finally allowing people to “shadow ban” others and a new artificial intelligence that is designed to flag potentially offensive comments. Both initiatives are looking to be put into testing soon.
The “shadow ban” will essentially provide a way for a user to restrict another user, without that person realising they are essentially banned. So they will still be able to see your post and comment on them, but their comments will only be visible to themselves meaning you and the rest of the people you actually want to interact with can keep talking in peace while said person wonders why their snarky comments are not getting any responses from you.
Along with this feature, Instagram is also hoping to leverage a new AI to flag potentially offensive comments and ask the commenter if they really want to follow through with posting. They’ll be given the opportunity to undo their comment, and Instagram says that during tests, it encouraged “some” people to reflect on and undo what they wrote. A nice touch, though given the emotional state most bullies are in, it’s unlikely to alter course for most people. Still, it’s better than nothing.
Instagram has already tested multiple bully-focused features, including an offensive comment filter that automatically screens bullying comments that “contain attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health” as well as a similar feature for photos and captions. So this shows a real effort by Facebook to tackle this problem on the platform.
A lot of these features you could argue should’ve been part of Instagram for a while now, but it’s nice to see that they are trying to do something about this abusive online culture that really shouldn’t exist in the first place.
Last Updated: July 9, 2019